As the North Branford Fire Department celebrates 75 years of service this June, Deputy Fire Marshal John O'Brien shares some of the department's history with help from the North Branford Historical Society.
Fire protection in North Branford before 1938 consisted mostly of hastily organized “bucket brigades” with help from the Town of Branford, who already had an organized fire department. But this proved to be mostly ineffective and many houses and barns were lost. After the fire at St. Andrew’s church in 1938, a few town men resolved to organize a fire department.
A special town meeting was called on April 27, 1938 for the purpose to organize a fire department in North Branford. That night, proposals were made and voted on to establish a board of fire commissioners to be appointed by May 1, 1938, by the first selectman who would act as chairman.
A call for volunteers was made. F.Lober, Chester Gedney, George Gedney, Arnold Schlenam, John Hartigan, Leslie Brindley, Allan Gilbert, Sterling Stevens, Fred Damutz, Vincent Matt, Charles Leonard, Edward Daly, Paul Royce, Burton Atwater, Peter Gibney, Paul DeCunto, Richard Scholtz, Floyd Griswold, Ernest Rose, Nathan Harrison, Charles Fair and August Quertfeld all responded.
On April 29, 1938, the board of selectman appointed; E.B.Foote, Walter Chinsey, D.M. Doody, A.L. Harrison, Clarence Williams and Edward Lelasher as Fire Commissioners. First Selectman Charles Fair served as chairman.
On June 23, 1938, North Branford Fire Department, Headquarters Company 1 was formed. At a town meeting for an appropriation of $6,000 to purchase a fire engine and equipment, it created an incident that has become one of the town's favorite stories.
Opposition to the request was expressed by one irate lady who declared she would sue the town for wasting the taxpayers' money for an engine that would never be needed. Needless to say, the first call responded to by the new fire engine was at the lady's house.
The new fire engine was housed at Nate Harrison’s barn on North Street, and responded from there until in 1954, when land was leased from New Haven Trap Rock (Tilcon) and Company #1 firehouse was built, where it still stands today. The original 1938 Diamond T fire truck still sits inside.
How has the NBFD served you over the years? Did you know how the department got its start?